The circle of life

Bern Switzerland Produce

Now back to that nifty, sleek little compost bin on the counter. The tiny collector on the counter plays a huge role in our little sustainable circle of life around here. It is primarily fed banana peels (because I use a banana a day in my smoothies) but also regularly includes leftover salad scraps, onion peels, squash skin, apple cores, eggshells and the like.

My food scraps feed the worms, the worm castings feed the plants, the plants feed me, my goats and chickens, who in turn feed me milk and eggs.

I take particular interested in reading about how pesticides are effecting our world and showing up in our foods. Specifically,  highly toxic organophosphate insecticides.

“According to EWG (Environmental Working Group), these insecticides are toxic to the nervous system and have been largely removed from agriculture over the past decade, but they are not banned and still show up on some food crops.”

Also from the same website, the following 12 foods (when not bought organic) most laden pesticide are:

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Sweet bell peppers
4. Peaches
5. Strawberries
6. Imported nectarines
7. Grapes
8. Spinach
9. Lettuce
10. Cucumbers
11. Domestic blueberries
12. Potatoes

All of these make up a good majority of my pescatarian diet. And to continue the circle, if I put non-organic strawberry leaves, banana peels, apple cores and old spinach into my vermicompost bin, it goes through the worms, into my plants/garden, into the foods I and my animals will eat, and eventually back into me.

StockSnap_BY3UR91MPQ

But buying organic is expensive. And I can only hope that as it becomes more mainstream, the prices will drop. It’s hard to eat all organic on a small budget. Do you know why it is expensive?  Organic animal products have to meet a rigorous list of criteria to be labeled organic as such.

For example, the USDA requires organic animals meet the following requirements:

  • no growth hormones (including rBGH or rBST)
  • no antibiotics
  • no wormers or other preventative medicines
  • grass-fed for at least 3 months out of the year
  • 100% organic feed if not on pasture
  • no animal by-products in the feed
  • no artificial “roughage” in the feed
  • living conditions allow movement and access to outdoors and sunlight

DairyCows

I’m all for organic, but it does make it terribly expensive and difficult for family farmers of dairy or beef animals to label their products as organic, hence why it is so expensive. Even for me personally, I cannot afford to buy organic grass and alfalfa hay for my goat. She eats the same hay I purchase for my horse, and I supplement that with organic sunflower seeds and organic kelp. My chicks/chickens however, do eat an organic chicken feed that I buy through a local coop. That is supplemented with free ranging on bugs, lettuce, spinach and other various fruits and vegetables that I eat as well. And if I feed them non-organic table scraps, such as a non-organic leftover salad or a non-organic watermelon, it’s eventually going back into my eggs, which I’d like to claim as organic because my birds eat organic food. But I can’t, totally.

I’d like to think that by minimizing the non-organic foods I do buy, which are usually locally sourced, and by being particular in the things that I do buy organic, I am lessening the impact that I have on myself, and the planet. Still making small progress.

So while I make great efforts to eat organic, I make educated decisions on my purchases and am mindful of my consumption. I found that bringing my own cloth grocery bags to the store (another habit I picked up in Germany) and requesting paper bags for anything that won’t fit, make a great deal of difference in the amount of trash I create. It was also in recent years that I started noticing the amounts of plastic that food comes in. Your efforts don’t have to be “all or nothing” to make an impact.

Sadly, in the wake of my plastic bag enlightenment, stores in Arizona have stopped asking, “paper or plastic?” Now I receives glares or long sighs when I ask for paper bags. And sometimes they toss the items in the plastic bags so quickly I don’t even have time to comment. And when I ask, “Can we use paper bags for the rest?” I receive a pause, sigh and stare and they smile between their teeth and say, “of course.”

Did you know that in many places in Seattle they charge .5 cents per bag used at the store? And that is .5 cents for a paper bag. Plastic bags aren’t an option.

Another habit that so many of us have is to put our vegetables in those handy plastic bags hanging above the produce at the grocery store. Each separate, misted vegetable in it’s own bag. Those bags add up. Did you know that you can actually omit the bag all together and place your vegetables carefully at the top of your cart, or even purchase re-usable mesh produce bag for your grocery excursions? I dilligently wash the produce as soon as it gets home, so that anything it might have touched from grocery store to kitchen can be washed off.

All food for thought in my efforts to consume less and waste less. Next, I’ll talk about starting my worm bin!

NOTE: This blog includes affiliate links, which means I may receive a nominal commission when you make a purchase at no additional cost to you. I have not been paid for my opinion and any commentary on the efficiency of a product is solely my own opinion and experience.

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